Monday, March 20, 2017

TV Show Review: Home Improvement - Season 4

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Laughs and fun with all the characters
Cons: No cons were built into this season
The Bottom Line:
Spreading spotlight wealth
Build more laughs for audience
Delightful season

“Installation Will Be a Breeze.”  “That’s What You Always Say, and then the Breeze Turns Into a Tornado.”

I must admit that I came to Home Improvement on the tail end of its original run, and I’ve been slow to catch up via the DVD set I bought several years back.  I’d also noticed while watching the first three seasons the show was much more formulaic than I remembered it being.  That formulaic tendency went away when I saw down to watch the season 4 DVD set, and I found myself ending season 4 more than season 3.

Yes, the set up for the show is still the same.  It follows Tim Taylor (Tim Allen), host of the local home improvement show Tool Time alone side Al Borland (Richard Karn).  At home, he’s married to long suffering wife Jill (Patricia Richardson), and they have three boys – Brad (Zachery Ty Bryant), Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), and Mark (Taran Noah Smith).  Rounding out the regular cast is their neighbor Wilson (Earl Hindman), who often offers Tim advice to help him navigate his relationships.  Not that Tim ever remembers it correctly.

The season starts out with Jill making a huge decision – to go back to school to get a master’s degree in psychology so she can become a counselor.  This leads to her trying to balance her family with her homework for the rest of the season, and this change doesn’t sit well with Tim at first.  Meanwhile, Al becomes a partner in the local hardware store and is named one of Detroit’s most eligible bachelors.  On the home front, Brad gets a paper route, Randy’s birthday party ends in disaster thanks to an over waxed dance floor, and Mark starts having trouble in school.  It’s not a good year for Tim and cars as he destroys one and sells the hot rod he’s been working on – a decision he soon regrets.  Even Wilson gets into the act of having episodes devoted to him as he considers selling his home and later is set up on a blind date by Jill.

As you can see, there is plenty going on with the entire cast.  This is a wonderful change from the old formula of Tim does something that annoys Jill, she gets mad, Tim makes it worse, Wilson sets him straight, and Tim and Jill make up.  Yes, there are still some episodes along those lines, and even when the focus is on someone else, Tim is just as likely to make things worse at first than help, but breaking away from this formula is very welcome.

And the change gives us some great laughs.  The writers are definitely on the top of their game, not only giving us some good storylines but also great jokes.  When this show is really working, I can picture myself saying some of the things these characters say in these situations.

For those keeping track, this season also features the first appearance of Tim’s younger brother Marty (William O’Leary), who shows up in several episodes here and would pop up from time to time for the rest of the series.

The actors are also in fine form this season.  They are able to milk every laugh out of the material.  It certainly helps that they know each other at this point and are able to play off each other perfectly.  The kids have not only grown up but grown as actors, so they are able to handle the spotlight perfectly when it shines on them.  With Wilson in some scenes outside his backyard, it’s fun to see how they stage things so that we still don’t see all of his face.  You can catch some glimpse, especially if you are ready with the pause button, but the joke is still great.

The season consisted of 24 new episodes and an hour long clips show of previous segments from Tool Time.  All of them are presented in this three disc set in their native full screen and stereo surround.  The only extra is a six minute long outtakes reel that features some bits that aired during the credits and some new material.  Unlike the episodes themselves, the outtake reel picture and sound quality isn’t the best, but it is still worth a few laughs.

It’s nice to see Home Improvement shining the light and laughs on all the character.  This easily makes season 4 the best season to date.

Season 4 Episodes:
1. Back in the Saddle Shoes Again
2. Don’t Tell Momma
3. Death Begins at Forty
4. The Eyes Don’t Have It
5. He Ain’t Heavy, He’s Just Irresponsible
6. Borland Ambition
7. Let’s Got to the Videotape
8. Quibbling Siblings
9. My Dinner with Wilson
10. Ye Olde Shoppe Teacher
11. Some Like It Hot Rod
12. ‘Twas the Night Before Chaos
13. The Route of All Evil
14. Brother, Can You Spare a Hot Rod?
15. Super Bowl Fever
16. Bachelor of the Year
17. It’s My Party
18. A House Divided
19. The Naked Truth
20. Talk to Me
21. No, No, Godot
22. Tool Time After Dark Part 1
23. Tool Time After Dark Part 2
24. Sisters and Brothers
25. A Marked Man
26. Wilson’s Girlfriend

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